A small patch of land on Mars appears to have been flooded by water very recently, according to a new study.
A team of researchers from Trinity College in Dublin previously noted these “arcuate striations” on Mars in between migrating sand dunes. Geological fieldwork conducted on similar dunes on Earth found that they are created by evaporating groundwater.
“On Earth, desert dunefields are periodically flooded by water in areas of fluctuating groundwater, and where lakes, rivers and coasts are found in proximity, Dr. Mary Bourke, a professor who was involved in the research at Trinity College Dublin, said in a press statement. “These periodic floods leave tell-tale patterns behind them.”
The scientists suspect that the dunes may have formed on Mars quite recently, potentially within a few hundred years.
“You can imagine our excitement when we scanned satellite images of an area on Mars and saw this same patterned calling card, suggesting that water had been present in the relatively recent past,” Bourke continued.
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover discovered new geological evidence in January that liquid water was flowing on the Red Planet in the distant past. Curiosity may have discovered 3 billion-year-old mud cracks, meaning the planet was likely covered in water at that time. The rover also identified geological layering patterns called cross-bedding which typically forms on Earth when water flows rapidly near the shore of a lake.
These discoveries are just the latest to determine that The Red Planet may have contained habitats that can potentially support life. Other observations from the rover indicate that Mars had an environment that could have supported life for well over 100 million years.
In December, Curiosity found numerous organic molecules “all over” the Red Planet in samples it drilled out of rocks as well as organic molecules.
Scientists at the University of Texas published research in November that said some volcanic areas on Mars could be ideal chemical environment for life to develop and flourish even in the present day. Lava from volcanoes and ice from glaciers would combine to form a fairly warm environment by Martian standards and have access to a lot of water, ice, and potentially even liquid water.
Geologists announced in September that hydrogen, a critical component necessary to support life, can be produced by earthquakes on Earth. They concluded that the same kind of “Marsquakes” could produce hydrogen on Mars, removing a major barrier to life. The Red Planet’s atmosphere is rich in oxygen, so an ample supply of hydrogen could mean that water is more common on Mars than generally believed.
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